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Dealing with reverse culture shock
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 11405
Location: The real world

PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 6:51 am    Post subject: Dealing with reverse culture shock Reply with quote

Repatriating… Reverse culture shock and how to handle it
By Suzanne Berg, Teach Middle East Mag | Jan/Feb 2017
Source: http://teachmiddleeastmag.com/teach-middle-east-magazine-jan-feb-2017-issue-4-volume-4/

As educators, we move for opportunities, adventure, new experiences, better pay, and travel opportunities. Everything is strange and exciting at first, but becomes normal, even enjoyable, after a few months. However, if you want to throw yourself for a real loop, move back to the western hemisphere after living and teaching abroad for a few years. After coming to terms with the decision to move home, then packing up and/or selling home contents and embarking on a new job search, you might think life will fall back into place upon return to your home country - I certainly did. But brace yourself, because “Reverse Culture Shock” is lurking right around the corner.

Here's why and what you can do to combat it.

Shock #1: Loss of words
I blogged the entire time I was living in the UAE, but still found it difficult to articulate my feelings upon return. Followers of my adventures had already been informed of my highs and lows, so why should I bore everyone by regaling them with my tired tales? Those who hadn’t kept up with my musings via social media obviously had little interest while it was occurring, so what would make me think they want to hear about it after the fact? Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I fell silent.

How to handle it: I framed and hung photos up in my house, arranged dozens of travel magnets on the side of my fridge, and found a website that would turn my blog posts into a bound book. People ask questions when they see my mementos, and I can relish my tangible memories daily.

Shock #2: Technology
I used to pump my own fuel and breeze through the self-checkout with the best of them. What on earth happened since I left the U.S.? Chip-enabled credit cards required new hardware to be implemented at many establishments I frequent. All of a sudden, I’m the customer who needs an attendant to help me finalize my purchase. Ugh.

How to handle it: Strike up a conversation and ask for help. Many folks are amazed that you’d even consider leaving the country, not to mention for an extended period of time, so conversations ensue. At that point, they’re happy to help.

Shock #3: Where did all the accents go?
Seriously, one of the best parts of living abroad is hearing all the different accents. Although sometimes difficult to understand, the myriad of accents I heard in the UAE were endearing more than they were troublesome.

How to handle it: Keeping in touch is easy these days! With Skype and WhatsApp, I can still hear voices from around the world. Staying connected with those who shared my adventure keeps me sane. And their accents are music to my ears.

Shock #4: Fewer travel opportunities
This was a difficult pill to swallow. No more quick trips to Oman, Qatar, Europe or Asia. Not fair.

How to handle it: Find joy in local travel. A person can live his entire life in the U.S. and never see the whole place. The same goes for Europeans, where traveling from country to country is like an American traveling from state to state. Instead of globetrotting, enjoy the changing scenery of road trips. New experiences can happen anywhere.

Overcoming reverse culture shock means redefining “home.” Accept the fact that although much of life is the same as before you left, some things have changed and will never return to the way they were… you, for one. The key is to build on your experiences, embrace change, and adapt.

(End of article)

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Even if you're back on "home soil" for a few months, how do you manage reverse culture shock? What situation, thing, and/or activity have you found the most challenging to adjust to?
.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You may find that you have lost the ability to communicate with other native speakers. You have become so accustomed to speaking in "Offshore English" that you cannot use other varieties of the spoken tongue !
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Yanklonigan



Joined: 23 Jan 2017
Posts: 35

PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found that upon returning to the USA after various overseas stints, I really missed the friends I had made overseas. It also seemed that old friends had moved on to other things, leaving me behind. I realized that the solution was to move on to a new life myself...even on my own stomping grounds.

I also longed for the positive things I had left behind in foreign lands while quickly forgetting about the many negative aspects that were also left behind. I had to caution myself about focusing too much on the things I disliked about my own country. I made an effort to pay attention to the many advantages and joys of the USA.

Life is an adventure: moving back home is yet one more chapter in the book of your life's adventure. I believe we need to cherish the changes, loneliness and setbacks that come along with the package. I recommend that a person not waste too much time wrestling with ghostly memories of lost Camelot.
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JoThomas



Joined: 08 Jan 2017
Posts: 146
Location: China

PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

^Ha!

Great article, Nomad!

I've experienced reverse culture shock a number of times, and never more than when I tried to live back in my home town for a year. I was away six years when I tried to return home, but I always felt like I was living in a ghost town. It took me awhile to adjust to the quietness.

I had to rekindle relationships with my family and friends again, find a decent job which was near impossible. I felt like I had changed a lot, but many of my friends and family hadn't even left the small town. I adjusted as well as I could for a year and a half, but then when the opportunity to go back abroad to China came up, I had to take it.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 7:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

scot47 wrote:
You may find that you have lost the ability to communicate with other native speakers. You have become so accustomed to speaking in "Offshore English" that you cannot use other varieties of the spoken tongue !

Ditto that. Laughing One of my friends truly believes that teaching EFL can certainly screw up your own English language skills.

When I returned to the US from Saudi Arabia, the airport shuttle van that was to drop me off at my home was getting full -- only the front passenger seat was available. I was hesitant to get in and asked the other passengers if it was okay to take that seat. My mind was still in Saudi Arabia where sitting next to the driver was a no-no for women. The other riders where initially surprised that I would ask, but they got a chuckle out of it. Also, for my first few days stateside, I had to break the habit of reaching for my abaya when going out to check my mailbox. Laughing

BTW, returning "home" can be extra challenging for us third-culture kids -- those of us who grew up outside our passport country.
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OhBudPowellWhereArtThou



Joined: 02 Jun 2015
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nomad soul wrote:
scot47 wrote:
You may find that you have lost the ability to communicate with other native speakers. You have become so accustomed to speaking in "Offshore English" that you cannot use other varieties of the spoken tongue !

Ditto that. Laughing One of my friends truly believes that teaching EFL can certainly screw up your own English language skills.

When I returned to the US from Saudi Arabia, the airport shuttle van that was to drop me off at my home was getting full -- only the front passenger seat was available. I was hesitant to get in and asked the other passengers if it was okay to take that seat. My mind was still in Saudi Arabia where sitting next to the driver was a no-no for women. The other riders where initially surprised that I would ask, but they got a chuckle out of it. Also, for my first few days stateside, I had to break the habit of reaching for my abaya when going out to check my mailbox. Laughing

BTW, returning "home" can be extra challenging for us third-culture kids -- those of us who grew up outside our passport country.


Going home is a weird experience, I took an eighteen month break from China awhile ago to go home and rethink everything. Still no one in my family was interested in my experiences. Things in my city had changed enough for me to become lost in areas that I knew well--- even after a year, I found myself traveling along a well-known route and asking myself: Where am I? I wasn't sure if I had taken a wrong turn somewhere.

Interestingly, teaching EFL in China has made me a more precise speaker. I am more aware of the difficulty that some other Americans have with my normal vocabulary. I have a tendency to talk down to people whom I don't know well.

My writing has become more precise, though you wouldn't know it from reading some of my posts in this forum.

People in my home city are just as rude and inconsiderate as some folks in the Chinese city in which I have lived. Some of my fellow Americans may be as bad as or worse than many Chinese I have encountered.

In my home city in the USA, kindness is not considered something to be demonstrated freely.

Interestingly (to me, anyway), I am more likely to call out bad behavior when I am at home in my American city. If someone gets b*tchy with me, he's likely to hear, "What's the matter? Are you having a bad day?"

Going home after extended periods of time spent in China can be a mind bender.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Going back home and finding the homies do not want to hear your "traveller's tales" is a familiar aspect of returning.

Rather like Vietnam Vet Syndrome when the only people you can relate to are others who have been through similar experiences.
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dragonpiwo



Joined: 04 Mar 2013
Posts: 1617
Location: Berlin

PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 2:38 am    Post subject: erm Reply with quote

In Libya there people on the camp who had become really institutionalized like the fella who hung himself in the Shawshank Redemption. They are still there.
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Yanklonigan



Joined: 23 Jan 2017
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another thing that I hard time digesting when I returned home my teaching experiences in Japan and Saudi Arabia (not to mention my adventures) didn't count for very much when I went looking for a job. Interviewers were more interested in what I had done before I went overseas. I doubt if any of them even bothered to heck my references from overseas.

Now, many years since I have left EFL behind, I do think that my stints in the Far East and the Near East have enriched my resume, but it was a hard sell initially.

In my opinion, EFL/ESL has more professional credibility here in the 21st century than it did in the 20th century.
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danshengou



Joined: 17 Feb 2016
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing I certainly WON'T have trouble adjusting to going back to home is FOOD - and a bunch of other stuff I used to take for granted.
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Kowloon



Joined: 11 Jan 2016
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

danshengou wrote:
One thing I certainly WON'T have trouble adjusting to going back to home is FOOD - and a bunch of other stuff I used to take for granted.


Plan on heading home soon?
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danshengou



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 5:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If and when Smile I do, I think I will eat non-stop for a week!
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OhBudPowellWhereArtThou



Joined: 02 Jun 2015
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm... food. I don't have problems with food. I have problems cooking different dishes because I cook for myself. The problem is that in order for me to have variety in my diet, I must buy more groceries that I can actually cook in a week. Fresh food seems to perish more quickly in China.

It's so much easier (and cheaper in the long run) to go to a Mom 'n Pop restaurant to eat dinner. I have a menu that friends have put together for me to show the waitress.

As long as it isn't really mushy and as long as it doesn't look like an animal's organs, I'm okay with it. I'm okay with chicken feet now. (Once, when I went to dinner with Chinese friends, I asked if chicken lips were on the menu. Talk about confused looks). I hate it when I find a chicken head at the bottom of the soup.

Other than that, I'm okay with Chinese food.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 11:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Speaking of food, I'm lucky to have Asian and Mid East markets located near my home in the US. Having access to familiar international foods (and smells) can help ease the adjustment of repatriation.

On a side note, I once returned stateside from the Mid East and immediately needed to hit the local supermarket for a few essential food items. The cashier bagged my groceries and said "thank you," to which I instinctively responded with "afwan" ("you're welcome" in Arabic). He looked puzzled for a few seconds before saying, "You have fun too." Oops! Laughing I'd gotten so used to speaking and hearing Arabic and was mentally still in the Mid East.

BTW, when I was in Saudi Arabia, I watched old "Perry Mason" episodes to keep my English skills from deteriorating. Cool
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danshengou



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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 3:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OhBudPowellWhereArtThou wrote:
Once, when I went to dinner with Chinese friends, I asked if chicken lips were on the menu. Talk about confused looks.

The Chinese don't seem to get this kind of sarcasm. Laughing

As far as eating out goes, I simply have to cook for myself or go to good places. No street food and no mom n' pops. I just don't want to risk it. Food quality and cleanliness standards are a real issue here.
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